The "fog of war" from Ukraine appears to have descended on Facebook and Instagram. Meta, parent company of the two social media platforms, last week reportedly took the highly unusual step of suspending some of the quality controls it implemented to ensure that posts from users in Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries meet its rules.
The New York Times reports that the company's content monitors have been unable to keep up with "shifting rules about what kinds of posts were allowed about the war in Ukraine." Under the change, Meta temporarily stopped tracking whether its workers who scan Facebook and Instagram posts from those areas were accurately enforcing its content guidelines, six people with knowledge of the situation told the newspaper.
"Meta has made more than half a dozen content policy revisions since Russia invaded Ukraine last month," according to the NYTimes. "The company has permitted posts about the conflict that it would normally have taken down — including some calling for the death of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and violence against Russian soldiers — before changing its mind or drawing up new guidelines, the people said."
Policy changes have been issued almost daily. The result has been confusion among the content moderators whose job it is to look for Facebook and Instagram posts with text and images with gore, hate speech and incitements to violence.
“All the ingredients of the Russia-Ukraine conflict have been around for a long time: the calls for violence, the disinformation, the propaganda from state media,” said David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and a former special rapporteur to the United Nations. “What I find mystifying was that they didn’t have a game plan to deal with it.”